“Help me,” 23-year-old Emil Linnell can be heard saying repeatedly in recordings of his January 30th call to SOS Alarm, Sweden’s emergency response service.
According to Sveriges Television (SVT), the nurse who took Linnell’s call had several years of experience in the healthcare sector and had worked as an emergency call operator for more than a year.
During his time on the job, however, the nurse had been reported for a number of failings in his work, referred to as deviations from standard procedures.
“The majority of the mistake rests with one person,” SOS Alarm spokesperson Fredrik Bergengård told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.
Linnell made several calls to SOS Alarm complaining of breathing trouble, but the on-call nurse deemed his condition not to be life-threatening.
The transcript of the communication between the nurse and the man shows that he pleaded ‘help me’ repeatedly on the phone to SOS Alarm but was ignored.
According to the transcript the nurse said he couldn’t really understand what Linnell’s problem was. He said that Linnell was ‘running about the flat’ with no ‘apparent problem breathing or speaking’.
But Linnell persisted in saying he couldn’t breathe.
“I know, but I have been sitting here listening to you. You are breathing fine now,“ the nurse answered.
“No, I am fainting! I’m fainting,” he said.
“Take a deep breath now,” the nurse urged.
“I can’t! Please help me! Please! Help me,“ pleaded Linnell.
A little later he said, “I can’t breathe” again.
“You are breathing fine. I promise you,” the nurse then answered him.
The call then finished with a wheezing noise followed by a crash. Two hours later a neighbour found Linnell dead by the open door.
No ambulance was ever sent, and it was later determined Linnell died from a ruptured spleen.
“The whole incident is a tragedy and we are deeply grieved with what happened,” SOS Alarm CEO Johan Hedensjö said in a statement.
According to Hedensjö, SOS Alarm is assisting the police and the National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) in their investigations. The nurse who took the call has since been dismissed from duty.
Filippa Reinfeldt, wife of Prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and county council chair, described the incident as a ‘great tragedy’, which must be investigated thoroughly by both the National Board of Health and Welfare and prosecutors.